Are you familiar with Parkinson’s Law? Originally it stated that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”
Parkinson’s Law is the title of the book written by Englishman Cyril Northcote Parkinson in 1958 and today, the more recent understanding of the law is a reference to the self-satisfying uncontrolled growth of the bureaucratic apparatus in an organization.
The Law is also applied to money and wealth accumulation: expenses always rise to match income. Parkinson’s Law can explain why many people retire poor and why some people succeed, whilst others fail.
The law says that, no matter how much money people earn, they tend to spend the entire amount and a little bit more. Their expenses increase in line with their earnings. Many people earn today several times more than they were earning at their first jobs. But somehow, they seem to need every single penny to maintain their current lifestyles. No matter how much they make, it is never enough.
The key to financial success – break the (Parkinson’s) law
Parkinson’s Law explains the trap that most people fall into. This is the reason for debt, money worries and financial frustration. It is only when you have sufficient willpower to resist the urge to spend everything you make that you begin to accumulate money – the perfect environment to help you achieve financial independence.
Reduce your outgoings
If you ensure your expenses increase at a slower rate than your earnings, and you save or invest the difference, you will become financially independent in your working lifetime (and retirement).
Measure the difference between your earnings and the costs of your lifestyle, and then save and invest the difference. You can continue to improve your lifestyle as you make more money.
Here are two things you can do to apply this law immediately:
- Imagine that your financial life is like a failing company that you have taken over. Stop all non-essential expenses. Draw up a budget of your fixed, unavoidable costs per month and resolve to limit your expenditures to these amounts. The aim is to make sure that your ‘company is making a profit’.
Carefully examine every expense. Question it as though you were analysing someone else’s expenses and look for ways to economise. Aim for a minimum of say, 10% reduction in your living costs.
- Resolve to save and invest 50% of any increase you receive in your earnings from any source. Learn to live on the rest. This still leaves you the other 50 percent to do with as you desire!
Stay invested and don’t try to second guess the market – Discipline is rewarded
Individual investors may face many “known unknowns”—that is to say, things that they know they don’t know. The UK’s referendum on EU membership is one of them, confronting people with a large degree of uncertainty. But as we’re witnessing, it’s not just the investor that’s afflicted by this Known Unknown condition – the markets are really uncomfortable as evidenced by the fall in the value of the pound.
We have though been here before; perhaps not having to make decisions that could affect our financial stability for years to come, but as the chart below shows, major global events that have impacted on our lives to a greater or lesser effect. Through all of them, the markets have shown a remarkable resilience over the longer term and that is one of the most important lessons the individual investor can learn.
You see, it’s not necessary to “make the right call” on the referendum or its consequences to be a successful investor. Our approach is to trust the market to price securities fairly; to take account of broad expectations of future returns.
In arguing for the status quo, the “remain” campaign is able to point out familiar characteristics of membership.
The “out” campaign, however, is based on intangibles that can only be resolved after the result of the referendum is known. It is impossible for any individual to predict the implications of these unknowns with certainty.
But this is no cause for concern. While the referendum is imminent and its implications are potentially vast and unpredictable, it is not necessary for individual investors to make any judgement calls on the outcome. We have faced many uncertainties in the past—general elections, market crises, recessions, wars—and throughout all of them, the market has done its job of aggregating participants’ views about expected returns and priced assets accordingly.
And while these events have caused uncertainty, volatility and short-term losses and gains, none of them has altered the expectation that stocks provide a good long-term return in real terms.
We have a global view of investing, and we know that the market is very good at processing information that is relevant to future returns. Because of this view, we don’t attempt to second-guess the market. We manage well-diversified portfolios that do not rely on the outcome of individual events or decisions to target the expected long-term return.
These events are not offered to explain market returns. Instead, they serve as a reminder that investors should view daily events from a long-term perspective and avoid making investment decisions based solely on the news. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. MSCI data © MSCI 2016, all rights reserved.
Research has demonstrated time and again that the best returns are achieved through ‘Time in the Market’ and not by trying to ‘Time the Market’; in other words, stay invested rather than guess the best time to invest and disinvest.
If you would like more information on our investment philosophy, please ring for an appointment or take advantage of our Friday Morning Drop-in Clinic here at our office in Limoux. And don’t forget, there is no charge for these meetings.
So What’s Your Strategy ?
Investing is not a sure thing in most cases, it is much like a game – you don’t know the outcome until the game has been played and a winner has been declared.
Anytime you play almost any type of game, you have a strategy. Investing isn’t any different – you need an investment strategy.
An investment strategy is basically a plan for investing your money in various types of investments that will help you meet your financial goals, depending on your time horizon.
Each type of investment contains individual investments that you must choose from. A clothing store sells clothes – but those clothes consist of shirts, trousers, dresses, skirts etc. The stock market is no different, it’s a type of investment, it contains different types of stocks and different companies that you can invest in.
If you haven’t done your research, it can quickly become very confusing – simply because there are so many different types of investments and products to choose from. This is where your strategy, combined with your risk tolerance and investment style, all come into play.
If you are new to investments, we will work closely together to ensure you have a full understanding before making any investments. I will help you develop an investment strategy that will not only fall within the bounds of your risk tolerance and your investment style, but will also help you achieve your financial goals.
Never invest money without having a goal and a strategy for reaching that goal! This is essential.
Nobody hands their money over to anyone without knowing what that money is being used for and when they will get it back! If you don’t have a goal, a plan, or a strategy, then you are essentially handing your money over without any idea of what it can do for you!
How Much To Invest?
Many first time investors think that they should invest all of their savings. This isn’t necessarily true. To determine how much money you should invest, you must first determine how much you actually can afford to invest and, just as importantly, what your financial goals are.
So, how much money can you currently afford to invest? Do you have savings that you can use? If so, great! However, you don’t want to cut yourself short when you tie your money up in an investment. What were your savings originally for?
It is important to keep three to six months of living expenses in a readily accessible savings account – don’t invest that money! Don’t invest any money that you may need to lay your hands on in a hurry in the future.
So, begin by determining how much of your savings should remain in your savings account, and how much you feel you are comfortable to use for investments.
Next, determine how much you can add to your investments in the future. If you are employed, you will continue to receive an income, and you can utilise your surplus income to build your investment portfolio over time.
Together we can work at setting a budget and determine how much of your future income you will be able to invest.
With my help, you can be sure that you are not investing more than you should or less than you should in order to reach your investment goals.
For many types of investments, a certain initial investment amount will be required. This at first glance, may look out of your reach. However I may be able to reduce these entry levels.
If the money that you have available for investments does not meet any required initial investment, you may have to look at others. Never borrow money to invest, and never use money that you have not set aside for investing!
Reasons To Invest
Have a think about how different our lives are compared to our parents or grandparents….. How often do we travel? How used to our luxuries in life are we? Well guess what ……. this all costs money and as we are all going to retire at some point it might be a good idea to start thinking about that cost now!
This is why investing has become increasingly important over the years. Gone are the days of relying on the state to look after you in your golden years, and I’m pretty sure leaving your cash in the bank isn’t going to get the results you need either.
Times are changing and more and more people want to insure their futures, and they already know that if they are depending on state benefits, and in some instances company pension schemes, that they may be in for a rude awakening when they no longer have the ability to earn a steady income.
Investing is the answer to the unknowns of the future.
You may have been saving money in a low interest savings account over the years. Now, you want to see that money grow at a faster pace. Perhaps you’ve inherited money or realised some other type of windfall, and you need a way to make that money grow. Again, investing is the answer.
Investing is also a way of attaining the things that you want, such as a new home, a university education for your children, or the longest holiday of your life………… retirement.
Of course, your financial goals will determine what type of investing you do.
If you want or need to make a lot of money fast, you will be more interested in higher risk investing, which will hopefully give you a larger return in a shorter amount of time. If you are saving for something in the far off future, such as retirement, you would want to make safer investments that grow over a longer period of time.
The overall purpose in investing is to create wealth and security, over a period of time. It is important to remember that you will not always be able to earn an income… you will eventually want to retire.
You cannot rely on the state system to finance what you want to do, and as we have seen with Enron, you cannot necessarily depend on your company’s pension scheme either. So, again, investing is the key to insuring your own financial future, but you must make smart investments.
10 tips for managing your finances
10 great tips for managing your finances from Susan Worthington our Partner of the Spectrum IFA Group for the Balers and Mallorca.
- Keep control of your finances. It’s easy to spend more than you earn rather than earn more than you spend. One reason for this is that unless you track what your regular expenses are you can never budget. This is the vital first step to managing your money.
- Be sure to budget for rainy day money. In working out your monthly expenditure try to include a little for the emergency pot, you never know what is around the corner. Set it aside in a flexible account where you can get your hands on it in case it’s needed quickly, this is money not to be tied up in an investment of some kind.
- Keep credit card debt to a minimum. This is another vital payment to be included in your monthly expenses as it is the no.1 obstacle to getting ahead. If you have large credit card debts try to stop using the card and pay bits off each month. The amount of interest you are paying if saved, could be put to better use.
- Pay your bills on time. Bills such as your IBI and car taxes, if not paid on time, result in fines which are quite hefty and end up costing you much more than you need to pay. These annual bills are often the ones that catch us out and form part of the exercise mentioned in No.1. Try to pay them as soon as they come in.
- Review all of your insurance policies. When you think about all the different types of insurances we pay, e.g. car insurance, life assurance, home insurance, medical insurance, travel insurance, pet insurance etc. they amount to substantial sums over the year. This is where you could make a saving which might help paying off credit card debt. Speak to your insurance brokers and ask before the payments are due if you can save some money this year by looking around at alternative policies. Banks are now also offering very good deals for their customers on grouping together your insurances. Your broker will know this and I’m sure will want the best deal for you.
- Update your Will. If you own assets anywhere then you need a Will. If you own assets in Spain then a separate Spanish Will is also advisable. There were changes to Spanish Wills on August 15th last year which means that unless a certain clause is written into your Will then children may benefit before the spouse does. Caution is recommended here if you have children from a previous relationship.
- Use only legitimate financial institutions. You need to know that your money is protected, all major institutions are required to provide some level of protection. What happens to your money if the bank or investment provider fall into problems? Check the amount of protection and then spread your money to diversify any risk involved. Check also the fees that the institutions charge.
- Think and/or take advice before spending or acting. Do not rush into anything that feels uncomfortable. If it’s too good to be true then it usually is! If you are making a big decision such as buying a property or investing your savings, take advice from the experts first.
- Use the services of professional people. If you need tax advice you need an accountant, lawyer or gestor. If you need investment advice you need an expatriate financial adviser. If you need banking advice nearly all banks have a dedicated adviser. There are mortgage brokers specialising in mortgage advice and insurance brokers specialising in general insurances. Some may charge a fee for their service, however you could in the long term be better off.
- Enjoy and respect what money you have coming in. We speak to many people who fear money and as a consequence avoid the responsibilities associated with it. Money can be interesting, it can bring you things that you need and want in life, without which our life is not as enjoyable. If you feel negative about money try to turn that belief around……if you have to pay tax then that means you are earning the money to be charged it. Seeing it as a part of our daily existence, with the many positive things it can do may help to make you feel happier.
Planning for the yachting season ahead
You spend much of your professional lives working hard for other people; this season I want to challenge you to do one thing for you and your future every month.
MARCH (i.e. now):
Consolidate your bank accounts – you don’t need them all.Have an account in the currency in which you are paid and another in any other currency you regularly use. You don’t, need lots of accounts, but make sure your total balance is below the compensation limits for the jurisdiction in which you hold the account .
Don’t spend money just moving it around, open a currency broker account. If you need to move money from one currency to another, don’t use your bank, your currency broker can save you a small fortune on exchange rates and fees.
Invest in yourself! What are you going to do at the end of the season? Consider now what your next set of exams will be and when you can do them. Put money aside for fees and living costs. Check your visas and passports if you are crossing to the U.S. later in the year. And start a diary (see November…).
This is the really busy time; stop and consider your longer term future. How long do you want to stay in yachting? What do you want to do after yachting?What do you want to get from yachting (personally and financially)?
The season is calming down – are you really covered? Time to check exactly what health insurance you have on board and if there is any accidental injury or even death in service protection for you and your beneficiaries while you work. When you know, tell someone at home so they can claim on your behalf if necessary.
Cash is no longer king. At the end of your season you may have a pot of cash that you can’t get into your bank (due to strict money laundering rules). Negotiate to have tips paid directly with your salary into your bank account, keeping only the petty cash required. Many Captains will do this.
Tax residency is a matter of fact. Get organised and keep a diary of your travels. Yacht crew are “approached” by various tax authorities that believe you might be a resident. It’s not down to them to prove that you are a resident in their country, it’s down to you to prove you’re not. Understand the residency laws of the countries where you are most likely to become a resident, then keep a diary and flight ticket stubs, to support your case.
If you’ll be in the yachting industry for more than two or three years, seriously consider saving for your future, Your friends on land are paying tax and social security, which will give them something at retirement – are you? It’s up to all crew to put something aside (I suggest at least 25 percent of salary) while they’re in the industry to try and secure their financial wellbeing. The million dollar rule – to retire on an income of $/€3,OOO per month in 15 years, you will need approximately $/€1.1million in assets.
Personal Financial Planning in France – if I knew then what I know now…
A British National, I came to France in 1996 for what was meant to be a 3-year local contract. But here I am, still living in France 20 years later. Sound familiar?
This year, at the age of 57, I stopped full-time employment, though I expect to stay in France for some years to come. Here are a just few of the useful things I’ve learned over the years, as an expat in France, focusing on tips for those of you who are still relatively new to France.
Tax efficient investment vehicles
The ISA doesn’t exist in France, but the Plan d’Epargne en Actions (PEA) and the Assurance Vie (AV) do. One can invest 150k euros in a PEA, and after 5 years the gains are free from Capital Gains Tax (CGT). There is no limit to the number or amount invested for AV’s, and after 8 years, any gains on withdrawal attract only 7.5% tax (over 9200 euros/yr). Both PEA’s and AV’s attract Social Charges on investment gains. With present interest rates low, an AV older than eight years is a much better option than a savings account (Compte Epargne). Your employer might also offer you a Plan d’Epargne d’Enterprise (PEE) where investment gains are free from CGT after 5 years.
My advice to anyone becoming tax resident in France is to open a PEA and an AV as soon as you arrive, with just a small initial investment, just to get the clock ticking. You can always close them if your short term contract turns out to be just that!
Pensions, QROPS & PERPs
Years worked in the UK can be transferred to the French system, and additional years purchased at little cost, which can greatly increase the value of your French Pension.
With the 15-year Gilt Rate presently so low, UK pension pot valuations are very high. If you are thinking of staying overseas, it is a good time to consider the Pro’s and Con’s of transferring your pot to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS).
Each year you can invest up to 10% of your salary free of income tax (within the maximum of 8 times the Social Security ceiling) in a Plan d’Epargne de Retraite (PERP), and you can accumulate up to 3 years if you do not use this 10% annual allowance. If you have been made redundant, at the end of the 3-year period of unemployment benefit, you can withdraw all the funds from a PERP free of CGT, so avoiding taking an annuity. Investments in a PERP are not subject to Wealth Tax (ISF).
Getting good, in-depth financial advice
I have always worked with one of the big French Banks and whilst they offer a range of products, their understanding of the needs of Anglo-Saxons is not always high. They recommend mainly in-house products and could be a lot more pro-active.
My employers were kind enough to offer me big consultancy companies to help fill out my annual French tax forms. The introductory meetings with senior directors always went well, but it was clear the forms were filled out by very junior staff, and their aim was to fulfil a service to the employer as much as to me – they are not at all there to offer advice and optimise tax.
Whilst it’s taken me a while to realise, it’s best to seek the assistance of specialist independent financial advisers, people who really understand both the UK and French financial space. I like to have more than one, in addition to the bank, to ensure several points of view/proposals on which to base decisions.
From experience, I can certainly recommend Jon Cooper (The Spectrum IFA Group) and Thierry Mandengue (VIP Partner) – they have undoubtedly saved me tens of thousands of euros.
In my next article, I will share my knowledge of Stock Options, PEE’s and Inheritance planning. I’d be happy to discuss expat finance further if anyone is interested (firstname.lastname@example.org).
*This article has been written by Dr. Martin Powell, a retired, British, Senior Corporate Executive living in France and a client of Jonathan Cooper
How much have your savings increased in the last 12 months?
How much have your savings increased in the last 12 months?
Which of the following reflects where your money has been?
Savings account +0.5% to 2% (before tax)*
FTSE100 -3.17% (before charges and after dividends)*
Cautious fund +4.3% to 5.5% (after charges)*
With interest rates predicted to stay low for some time to come, many in Spain are finding it difficult to grow their savings, or increase their income, without having to take risks they would not normally do, risking their capital.
So what are the options?
There are Spanish savings accounts offering around 2% although in reality this could be the rate for the first few months which will then reduce to a much lower rate. There are often restrictions on how much you can invest in these accounts. Inflation is running at a higher rate than most savings accounts and so, in real terms, most people are losing money in what they see as a risk free account.
Over the long term, through growth and dividends, it is possible to make significant gains. However, first-hand knowledge, or a lot of luck, is required to make the most of stocks and shares. Most people tend to have neither. In addition, most people are not prepared to take the rollercoaster ride that stocks and shares tend to produce.
These are, generally, complicated and inflexible products which are really only suitable for experienced investors. The gains can be based on a variety of things but often requiring 5 to 6 years before seeing any return.
Over time, property has proven itself to be a winner. However, it has also proven that it can suffer massive reductions. It is also probably the most illiquid asset you can hold as well as potentially, the most costly to hold in terms of upfront costs, taxes and maintenance. There can also be emotional risk.
Under the mattress
This is often mooted as a home for money in times of uncertainty but then there is the risk that it could go up in flames or end up in a burglar’s swag bag.
As financial planning advisers, we are in a position to offer the best of all worlds; the potential for growth in a low risk environment. By Investing in a Spanish compliant insurance bond, with a company that is one of the strongest in Europe, holding a variety of assets, including shares, bonds, cash and property (but not the mattress), one can achieve steady growth. There is also the facility to take regular income. Your money can grow tax free within the bond until money is withdrawn. Even withdrawals are taxed favourably. Two potential advantages; higher growth and lower taxes. Perfect!
* Source: Financial Express (12 months to 23/11/15)
The Effect of a Greek Default
It is difficult to say exactly what the outcome will be if Greece defaults on its debt. Many people believe that this would lead to Greece exiting from the Eurozone and possibly also from the EU. However, there is still some opinion that there will not be a ‘grexit’.
The fact that Greece has missed a repayment to the IMF earlier this month is not actually considered to be a default. This is because the IMF agreed to bundle all its loans to Greece together, so that the various payments that were due during this month are now due at the end of the month. This has provided Greece with some much needed time, during which it can try to reach an agreement with its creditors.
If Greece does not make the payment due to the IMF by end of June, it will then be classified as being in arrears and could be locked out of further IMF funding. This potential default scenario would present a number of challenges – not least the fact that it seems likely that Greece will anyway need a third bailout package, but this could be difficult with IMF involvement.
Should we be worried about our investments in Euros (or any other currency for that matter)? What about our Euro bank deposits – are these safe?
The uncertainty with the Greek situation has created some short-term volatility in stock markets, but this is not the only factor causing this. Whilst important, the Greek situation is probably less of a long-term investment issue than the prospect of increases in interest rates (and the effect on bond yields), as well as issues surrounding the oil price and the still existing possibility of a continuing slowdown in Chinese growth.
If there is a Greek exit, there may be some immediate selling-off of risk assets but longer-term, the economic impact to the rest of Europe should be limited. In the main, this is because most of the Greek debt is now held by ‘official creditors’ (for example, the ECB, the IMF and the EU). We have a different situation now compared to 2011 and the exposure of banks to any Greek debt should be cushioned by the stronger capital requirements that are now in place under international banking regulations.
There is some concern about possible contagion into the peripheral Eurozone countries, which could result in some pressure on those countries’ bond yields. However, it is important to know that public finances in these countries have improved compared to a few years ago and a number of reforms have been implemented that have improved the underlying economies. So any adverse effect on the countries’ bond yields is likely to be short-term. In reality, a bigger potential effect on bond yields is the prospect of increases in interest rates.
During the last month, there has been large amount of deposit withdrawals from Greek banks and again, there is some concern that this could spill over into the peripheral Eurozone countries. The question has also been raised that if there is a Greek exit from the Eurozone, could this lead the way for other countries to do the same?
You may recall the famous Mario Draghi speech back in July 2012, when he said ……
“Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough”.
“To the extent that the size of the sovereign premia (borrowing costs) hamper the functioning of the monetary policy transmission channels, they come within our mandate.”
There is great belief in Mario Draghi’s ability to ‘pull the rabbit out of the hat’ when it seems that all is lost, despite the fact that he often has to battle against some other members of the ECB Governing Council to put in place a solution to a problem. However, it is his final point above that is actually key to what might be needed now for Greece.
If Greece defaults on its debts technically, the ECB could classify Greece as insolvent and this should really prohibit Greek banks from receiving further support from the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) programme, since it is government bonds that are used as collateral. However, the ECB has the power to keep the ELA lifeline open, especially if it considers this to be in the best interests of the Eurozone.
If necessary, the ECB can also increase liquidity in the banking system by increasing the amount that is injected via the Quantitative Easing (QE) program. Of course, it will need to ensure that this does not drive inflation too quickly (since this is its primary mandate), but coming from a base of such low inflation, there is a lot of room.
I am writing this article over the weekend between the Eurozone Finance Ministers’ meeting of 19th June and the emergency EU Summit that on Greece is taking place on 22nd June. By the time that you read this article, maybe a deal will have been reached. In the meantime, the ECB has already increased ELA funding to Greece, following a further increase in deposit withdrawals from Greek banks. What seems clear to me is that this is to avoid a collapse in the Greek banking system and the risk of this spreading – perhaps even beyond the Eurozone.
My personal opinion on this is that a deal will be reached – maybe not at the emergency summit, but by the end of the month. What choice does Greece have but to give some way on the issues that are proving to be the barrier – pensions and VAT. After all, if the funding lifeline to Greece is cut off, where is Greece going to get the money from to pay its pensions at all? Other countries have already had to swallow the bitter pill that the Troika gave out, but they have suffered the pain and come out the other side on the road to recovery.
However, it may be that the Troika must also give a little for the sake of reducing the risks for the broader international financial markets and banking community. If a deal can be reached, there will be a third bailout package for Greece, but whether or not the same discussions will be taking place in another six months’ time remains to be seen.
As for our own investments, having a multi-asset approach with broad geographical diversification can protect against some of the movements that we may see in the period ahead. Choosing the right investment manager, particularly one who considers risk management to be a key part of the process, is also very important. Part of our role at Spectrum is to help our clients achieve both of these objectives.
The Greek situation is putting pressure on the Euro and if a deal is reached, this should help the Euro to recover a bit in the short-term. Beyond this, the effect of the QE program should depreciate the value of the Euro. On the other hand, there is also a potentially growing issue around Sterling to consider, and that is that the media is hyping up the possibility of the UK exiting the EU (‘brexit’ as well as ‘grexit’?)’. As this gathers momentum, we can expect it to put pressure on Sterling.
A final point is that markets generally only react to uncertainty, which is what we are seeing now. However, we should remember that the investment decisions we make are usually being made for the long-term and so whilst there may be short-term issues that we have to navigate around, we should try not to lose sight of our long-term goals.
The above outline is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute advice or a recommendation from The Spectrum IFA Group to take any particular action on the subject of investment of financial assets or the mitigation of taxes.